New York Mets: 5 Players Who Must Improve for Team to Contend in 2013

Alex OttContributor IDecember 14, 2012

New York Mets: 5 Players Who Must Improve for Team to Contend in 2013

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    Hoping for a Josh Hamilton or Zack Greinke signing this offseason? 

    Sorry.

    The days of the Mets signing marquee free agents are officially behind us, at least for the next few years.

    GM Sandy Alderson is committed to operating the Mets with low-cost, homegrown talent, which is far from what the team's mantra was just a handful of years ago when it signed big names like Carlos Delgado and Carlos Beltran.

    With the exception of a handful of veterans, the Mets are incredibly young and unproven. If they hope to win anytime soon, they better hope that these five players improve. 

Daniel Murphy

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    "Murph" has been a solid player for the Mets, but at 27 years old, he's no rookie anymore. His defensive miscues have made Mets fans cringe dozens of times, and his lack of power has been frustrating, especially since he came up as a corner infielder and was expected to provide some pop to the lineup. 

    A liability on defense, Murphy needs to sure up his glove in the field. On offense, he needs to either hit for a much higher average or hit more home runs. He does not do much to hurt the team, but with a .291 batting average and only six home runs, opposing teams aren't afraid of Daniel Murphy.

Johan Santana

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    It's hard to hate on the guy who threw the only no-hitter in Mets history, but anyone who watched the second half of the season knows that Johan Santana was atrocious. 

    With a 6-9 record and 4.85 earned run average in only 117 innings, Santana's numbers would be disappointing for a fifth starter, let alone a pitcher who was supposed to be an ace. 

    To his credit, he was coming off of an injury that forced him to miss all of 2011, but with a clean slate and a huge contract in 2013, Santana needs to reemerge as an ace, or he will have to face the harsh criticism that he will undoubtedly receive.

Lucas Duda

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    Duda was expected to be a legitimate threat to hit 30 home runs in 2012. Instead, he spent much of the second half in the minor leagues. His 15 home runs and .239 batting average will probably be closer to 25 long balls and a .250 average in 2013, but he needs to be more consistent and clutch in 2013.

    The soon-to-be 27-year-old also does not have a position in the field. His outfield play is atrocious, and while he could play first base, there is no chance that the Mets would play him over Ike Davis. Virtually every spot is open in the Mets outfield, and if Duda plays up to his potential, he will easily get the nod at a corner outfield position.

Josh Thole

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    Hopefully, Josh Thole is not big into sports media, because almost every article or talk show about the Mets has absolutely destroyed his play in 2012. In 104 games, Thole hit a lousy .234 with only one home run and 21 runs batted in. Even though the season was all but over, Thole's play was so miserable that the Mets brought in Kelly Shoppach to finish the season.

    Unfortunately for Mets fans, don't expect the team to sign or trade for a big-name catcher when Thole is first-year arbitration eligible and still under low-cost team control for the next few seasons. But with minimal hope for a brighter future, Thole is going to need to step up before he gets booed out of town.

Frank Francisco

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    For a team that wants a new identity as penny wise and not dollar foolish, Frank Francisco was a failure of epic proportions. The man that the Mets wanted as a closer signed a two-year, $12 million contract with the squad last offseason, and his 2012 could not have gone worse, unless you like your closer to have a 1-3 record with a 5.53 ERA and only 23 saves.

    Why didn't Bobby Parnell just close this year? Sadly, Manny Acosta could have done that same job. And the worst part is that Francisco failing sets a precedent for the Mets front office to not go out and spend money on veteran players. The young guys better have big years, because the front office is leaving it up to them.